Test and previews Tue 22 October 2019

Ducati Multistrada 950 S - A classy "Entry Level" dual

The current market of road enduros is more and more composed of "hyper bikes", far too powerful, but sometimes the manufacturers have the wit to present more man-sized motorcycles, which allow the average user, the neophyte but also the most experienced rider, to enjoy easy and intuitive means.

Appearance
It’s the case of Ducati that adds to its bigger bike, the powerful and muscular MULTISTRADA 1260, the more manageable 950; aesthetically it’s very close to the "big" one and is equipped with the wonderful 113 hp 937 cc engine with Desmodromic valve and, in the S version, the one we tested, with the most advanced Ducati technology: electronic suspension with the Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evo (DSS) system, Ducati Quick Shift up & down (DQS), full-LED headlamp with Ducati Cornering Lights (DCL), TFT display and many other "goodies" that make modern centaurs happy!
The bike is aesthetically very balanced, well proportioned, I’d say "harmonious" with its beautiful rounded and graceful shapes that still convey the feeling of strength and aggressiveness that is typical of the Ducati DNA!
The addition of Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires and beautiful spoked rims makes the bike even more attractive, giving the Multistrada a "Rally-to-go" look!
Pleasant TFT graphics, but the settings menu is not very intuitive and too “articulated”. It requires a thorough study before achieving the right confidence, because the settings of the engine mappings, traction and suspensions are really many and extremely customizable.
Given my considerable height I prefer high saddles, but I must say that the 840 mm high recessed seat makes it easy to paddle, also facilitating the average height rider, especially with a passenger. We must not forget that the Multistrada was born as a "dual" touring bike and its weight of just 204 kg, combined with agility make it a suitable vehicle for long distances two-up as well as solo, on paved roads and off-road!

On the road
As you straddle it you immediately feel the excellent balance of the bike. The wide sides of the tank do not interfere with steering, the handlebar is well positioned and wide for good leverage when changing direction, and has excellent backlit controls for the on-board computer and for the dashboard. The horn button is a bit uncomfortable, placed too low on the control panel.
The triangulation (saddle-footrest-handlebar) is excellent and unexpected even for “over” sizes! With my 1.9 meters I often find it difficult to find the right riding position. The Multistrada instead is very "comfortable", even if at first sight it seems very low: the right distance between saddle, footrests and handlebar, help to keep the back and the neck erect, the arms are in the right position, not too outstretched nor too close, as well as the legs, which maintain the knee at a correct angle so as not to tire muscles and joints on long rides.
The standing position comes natural and balancing is easy on off-road sections; the body, also thanks to the rather low footrests, finds the right center of gravity and you are never unbalanced either forward or backward.
The rubber pads on the footrests are easily removed and repositioned in seconds thanks to the excellent interlocking system, allowing the foot to rest on the knurled part of the footboard, making it easier to reach the brake and shift levers when riding in the standing position on off-road sections.
The engine immediately feels very manageable. Modular clutch (with disks in oil bath, in spite of the tradition that dictates a dry disk ...) and a very soft transmission, always accurate and absolutely silent, aided by the Quick Shift system which is among the best I've ever tried. Even at low speeds, both in progression and when up/down shifting without using the clutch it never hesitates nor stumbles.
It is not very powerful, I could do with a few more horses, but the engine works without delivery "holes", with a Ride by Wire throttle that doesn’t delay, and with a range of use that allows you to face a curve without hesitations. It has such right pull and output to allow a relaxed and fluid riding, always ready, never explosive, but brilliant on request, when for example you are facing the curves and the hairpin bends of the Apennines! Yes, I can’t deny it: the true Ducati vocation is felt on mountain sections, where the Multistrada unleashes record-breaking cycling characteristics. Despite the tires not really suitable for road use, the bike inserts with a lot of speed, totally stable in the front, allowing long drifts with the rear without ever having to fear a high-side or the rear to suddenly slip, not even with potholes in the center of the curve. Engine frame and suspensions work as one like a perfectly tuned orchestra, giving the rider unique sensations and emotions!
The 19” rim in front, makes the bike steerable to the right degree; it’s surprisingly stable on dirt-roads, it doesn’t miss a beat not even facing potholes at high speeds, and it’s sufficiently agile on curves. By using the brake and skidding with the rear wheel you can easily turn by traction, thus feeling an excellent general balance, always and above all in the front, the bike's true strong point!
On off-road the not too exuberant engine helps, because its smooth and progressive output allows even less experienced riders to safely and relaxedly tackle off-road sections, making it perfect for the "adventuring" type of tourism, to discover places off the beaten route.
I believe that Ducati has done an excellent job in terms of attention to details, of material quality and in developing an enjoyable and well-balanced engine, just as I found the bike to be well balanced.
In two words: a docile "hell-raiser" !!

Pros:
    •    Appearance
    •    Maneuverability
    •    Chassis
    •    Finishing
Cons:
    •    Not very powerful engine


Text: Edoardo Tommassini
Photo: Andrea Migliorati - MBfotopress - Video: Melin Studio's GVM

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